Movie Magic and More: 14 Wonderful Things to Do in Burbank

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Things to do in Burbank include The Johnny Carson Park, located on Bob Hope Drive in Burbank.
The Johnny Carson Park, located on Bob Hope Drive in Burbank, has picnic tables, a playground, a small stage, walking trail and restrooms. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

I grew up in Burbank and it’s one of my favorite cities in Los Angeles County, California for many reasons. It’s an incorporated, friendly city with proximity to Hollywood and other major L.A.-area attractions. But best of all, there are many wonderful things to do in Burbank.

Home to several film studios and entertainment companies, Burbank is known as the “Media Capital of the World.” When friends visit, I bring them to studio tours or TV show tapings, and shopping and dining in Downtown Burbank. There are also hiking trails, horseback riding and many other Burbank attractions.

Plus, the Hollywood Burbank Airport (formerly the Bob Hope Airport) makes it convenient to travel. Why hassle LAX traffic when you can fly into and out of Burbank? There’s also an Amtrak and Metrolink station that makes it easy to travel throughout southern California. For a city of 107,000 residents, Burbank has a lot to offer. It’s a close-knit community that has participated in the annual Tournament of Roses Parade since 1914. Burbank’s floats have won many awards and you can see the current year’s float after each parade.

Ready to explore my hometown? Here’s my list of fun things to do in Burbank and nearby.

Read More: 1 Day in L.A.: See Hollywood and Santa Monica Beach

Things to do in Burbank include four Warner Bros. Studio Tours.
Choose from four exciting Warner Bros Studio Tours. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

1. Take a Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

I never tire of the Warner Bros Studios Tours, which give great insight into the film industry. There are four different tours from standard to deluxe. For each one, you ride a tram, stopping at various sets to walk around.

Tour guides somewhat customize the tours depending on your favorite shows, whether it’s The Big Bang Theory, Gilmore Girls or other TV shows. The behind-the-scenes tours take you to sets past and present. You’ll see several Batman cars, visit the TV show Friends set, spend time in an interactive Harry Potter area and much more.

2. Catch a movie & a meal in Downtown Burbank

Downtown Burbank has changed a lot over the years but it’s always been a hub for dining and shopping. Today’s Downtown Burbank has over 100 eateries, numerous shopping options, movie theaters, a small farmers market, art galleries and the Flappers Comedy Club. In addition, a Winter Wine Walk and Arts Festival are among downtown events.

3. Take a stroll through Magnolia Park

The Magnolia Park area evolved from a string of boutiques along Magnolia Boulevard into a thriving shopping and dining area. It’s where you’ll find various boutiques, thrift shops, coffee shops and one-of-a-kind eateries. It’s easy to spot the popular Porto’s Bakery because there’s always a long line wrapped around the corner. People line up early for delicious baked goods and sandwiches.

In addition, Magnolia Park has food trucks and seasonal events.

4. Relax at the Johnny Carson Park

Located near the studios, the Johnny Carson Park on Bob Hope Drive is a nice place to relax. It’s by a natural stream bed and has picnic tables, a playground, a small stage, walking trail and restrooms.

5. Shop at the Burbank Certified Farmers Market

The Burbank Farmers Market has been selling fresh local produce, honey, flowers and other products in Downtown Burbank since 1983. While some vendors accept card payments, most require cash. For the best selection, it’s best to arrive early. Hours: 8-noon Saturdays.

6. Visit the Gordon R. Howard Museum

Learn about Burbank’s history at the nonprofit Gordon R. Howard Museum. Located at George Izay Park, the museum’s two structures contain exhibits that tell the story of Burbank. The Memorabilia Room is filled with historical photos and displays from Warner Bros, Walt Disney and NBC.

Things to do in Burbank include Wildwood Canyon Park, a hidden gem in the Burbank hills.
Wildwood Canyon Park is a hidden gem in the Burbank hills. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

7. Have a picnic at Wildwood Canyon Park

Nestled in the Verdugo Mountains, Wildwood Canyon Park is my favorite green space in Burbank. The secluded, woodsy park is easy to miss but worth visiting for a picnic and hike. It’s a long and narrow park that dead ends at the Wildwood Canyon trailhead. Picnic tables are scattered throughout the park in cozy spots beneath trees and by a seasonal stream.

Things to do in Burbank include The Stough Canyon Nature Center, which features hands-on exhibits and programs.
The Stough Canyon Nature Center features hands-on exhibits and programs. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

8. Explore Stough Canyon Nature Center

Also located in the Verdugo Mountains, the Stough Canyon Nature Center is small but has an array of exhibits and programs about local wildlife, flora, fauna, and habitat.  

9. See a concert at Starlight Bowl

Tucked into the wooded hillside, the Starlight Bowl is a true Burbank gem. Seeing live music here is one of the best things to do in Burbank. The amphitheater has been used for concerts, July 4th fireworks, graduations and other events since it opened in the 1950s. Between chairback seating and the lawn, it holds 5,000 people.

Things to do in Burbank - The author and her dog, Maya, enjoy hikes and views on the Wildwood Canyon trail.
The author and her dog, Maya, enjoy hikes and views on the Wildwood Canyon trail. Photo courtesy: Mimi Slawoff

10. Hike in Burbank

There are several hiking trails. I like the Wildwood Canyon trail which has great views of Burbank and Los Angeles. The trailhead is in Wildwood Canyon Park.

11. Check out the Martial Arts History Museum

Learn about Asian culture, art, history and the positive impact of martial arts on Western society. Permanent collections include historical artifacts, movie props, a timeline of anime history and more.

Things to do in Burbank include Griffith Park, which has hiking trails, picnic areas and several major attractions.
Griffith Park has hiking trails, picnic areas and several major attractions. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

12. Explore Griffith Park

The 4,210-acre urban oasis has many picnic areas, hiking trails and several major attractions. Among them is the iconic Griffith Observatory. Perched on Mt. Hollywood in Griffith Park, the observatory features exhibits, telescopes, live shows and fabulous views of the Hollywood Sign, Downtown L.A. and the Pacific Ocean.

The Los Angeles Zoo, Travel Town and the Autry Museum of the American West are also located in Griffith Park. For horseback riding or to see a horse show, swing by the Los Angeles Equestrian Center. There are numerous riding trails in the area.

SheBuysTravel Tip: You can see the Hollywood Sign, standing since 1923, from the Griffith Observatory. For close-up views, hike on one of the trails that start at the observatory.

13. Play at Universal Studios Hollywood

While not located in Burbank, the world-famous Universal Studios Hollywood is just around the corner – about a 15-minute drive. Universal is a movie-based theme park with many attractions for all ages. The most popular attraction is the Studio Tour, where visitors ride a tram through famous Hollywood streets and sets, including “King Kong 360 3-D.” Seasonal events include “Halloween Horror Nights,” “Grinchmas” and “Christmas in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter.”

In addition, the adjacent Universal CityWalk features entertainment, shopping, dining, and the “5 Towers” state-of-the-art outdoor concert venue.  

Things to do in Burbank include enjoying a meal with views from the hilltop Castaway Restaurant.
Enjoy a meal with views from the hilltop Castaway Restaurant. Photo credit: Mimi Slawoff

14. Dine like the locals

Burbank has hundreds of restaurants, but the following are the city’s classics.

Castaway Restaurant

Downtown Burbank is a happening place with movie theaters, restaurants, stores and a farmers market. It’s also home to the Burbank Town Center mall. The movie theaters anchor a pedestrian area with more shops, eateries and the Flappers Comedy Club, featuring a variety of comedians.

Perched atop the Burbank Hills, the Castaway is a popular spot for meals, cocktails and special events. It’s where my family and I have celebrated numerous special events and where I’ve met friends for brunch or drinks while enjoying beautiful city and mountain views.

Smoke House Restaurant

Locals and the entertainment industry have been dining at the iconic Smoke House restaurant since 1946. It’s known for its steaks and signature garlic bread.

La Bamba

This small, unassuming restaurant serves Caribbean soul food in a casual open-air setting. Try the Cuban sandwich or combination burrito or taco plate with black beans.

Bob’s Big Boy

Part of the Bob’s Big Boy American chain of restaurants, the Burbank location is the oldest one. Every Friday from 4-10 p.m., Bob’s Big Boy Burbank hosts Southern California’s best Classic Car Show.

Where is Burbank, California?

Located 12 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, Burbank is in the east part of the San Fernando Valley. Burbank has different sections: the foothills in the Verdugo Mountains, downtown area and the flatlands.

In the foothills you’ll find a nature center, parks, hiking trails, a hilltop restaurant with views and the Starlight Bowl – an amphitheater for concerts and special events. (It’s where I graduated from Burbank High School.)

The Magnolia Park area, in the flatlands, has unique boutiques, coffee shops and various events. The flatlands also encompass the Walt Disney Studios, Warner Brothers Studios and NBC Studios, where Johnny Carson hosted The Tonight Show. Nearby is Bob’s Big Boy restaurant, a favorite with locals for the food and car shows.

From Burbank, it’s a short drive to Hollywood, Universal Studios Hollywood, Griffith Park, Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood Sign. This makes Burbank an ideal home base for exploring Los Angeles.

For more information to help plan your visit, go to Visit Burbank.com.

Native Angeleno and seasoned travel journalist Mimi Slawoff writes for numerous print and digital publications. She is also the author of Oldest Los Angeles (Reedy Press, 2022). A lifelong world traveler, Mimi is an award-winning journalist who writes about outdoor adventures, cruises, Europe and cultural activities. Mimi has three grown kids and lives with her husband and their dog, Maya, in Los Angeles.
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